When we think of public storytellers, it is the people with super-human resiliency that tend to come to mind. You don't ever think about the guy who had something terrible happen, who's bitter and angry about it. We think about the person who had the worst tragedy that we would never want to live through tell us that they made it through. The thing is that most of us will not have our arms bitten off by a shark, or suffer triple amputations from an IED, or something equally horrible and tragic.
Most of us will live our lives in the middle of the bell curve. We're not super-humanly resilient, but we're not inhumanly miserable either. We just face life’s normal challenges each day, we cope with them, and those are our stories. We often think that all the strength lies in these people who've had incredible, awful things happen. While they certainly are strong, most of the strength lies in numbers. Everyone's living in the middle of the bell curve, where bad things happen and we don't handle them with the best attitudes or grace right away, but we come around to it. We live our lives, and we drive to work, get dressed, and feed our kids, and just do life.
There are times in story development workshops that Self Narrate has led when people told me that they didn't have a story because nothing "terrible or life shattering" has happened to them. Maybe nothing awful or tragic has happened, but that doesn't mean that you haven't faced adversity and overcome it. Your story matters. You have a story.
Those people who live way at the end of either end of the bell curve don't live behind a mask because something awful has happened and people know. You can't hide and pretend that it didn't happen. Most of the time, those people are sharing their stories, or they're on the other end of the spectrum and they're complaining about what has happened and they're living really miserable lives.
But everybody in the bell curve is supposed to act like everything is okay. We didn't suffer some horrible tragedy, so we're not allowed to complain about it. That's the message that, sometimes, people take home. "My life isn't that bad. I don't have any right to complain or be upset."
That's denying our true stories because you can go home to a marriage that isn't perfect, and that's hard, day in and day out, but you keep fighting for it, and ten years down the road, you're still together and you love each other. That's a story. It's a story a lot of people have.
You feel like a failure as a parent because you have to work and raise these kids, and you just don't know how to do it. That's a struggle and that's a story, and it's worth every bit as much as the really crazy, awful thing that happened, but we don't give ourselves permission to share those stories because nothing super terrible happened. We're supposed to suck it up and deal, and pretend like we are okay.
I think that's a real shame because so many other people are living those stories too, and need to hear about how you're getting through the day-to-day.
It's not the big crises that take us out, most of us, it's the day-to-day, and we need to hear about how we're getting through it. We need to share our stories, because they matter.